Three frustrated people, two nominating contests and one drop out. That is the rule of threes summary of Saturday, when real estate mogul Donald Trump won the Republican primary in South Carolina, the first-in-the-South, and Hillary Clinton won the Democratic caucuses in Nevada, the first-in-the-West.
Trump dominated in South Carolina, beating Florida Sen. Marco Rubio by 10 points, 32.5 percent to 22.5 percent. The difference between second and third places was much closer, and came down to the wire, but Rubio, who appears at least for the moment to have come back from the dead after his poor debate performance, ultimately prevailed over his colleague from Texas, Ted Cruz, who finished with 22.3 percent of the vote. This was the second time out of three that Rubio finished atop the establishment pack — which had been made up of himself, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. (He finished third in Iowa, while Cruz finished first.)
Those results were enough for a deflated Bush to squeeze what little air was left out of the balloon. He announced that he would end his campaign, which officially closes the door of an era where a Bush had been in at least in the national political discussion. The announcement also shows how much can change during the course of years and during the course of a campaign. He was an establishment candidate running in a time when the outsider/non-traditionalist appeals. He was also the frontrunner from before the time he announced to the time Trump entered the race. Then Trump happened, and his deflation started. Bush also proved that super PACs cannot buy elections.
Now that Trump has victories in the two out of the three early states that have held their contests, the question becomes: Can he be stopped? If history is any indication, no. The Republicans have never had a candidate who won both New Hampshire and South Carolina not become the nominee. This election year has been filled with anomalies, however, so if there is a year this trend is going to change, it could very well be this one.
The momentum is now officially with Trump, which means it could be too hard to stop it. Therefore, other states could go in his favor because he has done well thus far. During the date range Feb. 10-15, he has been atop the RealClear Politics polling average for Nevada, which holds its Republican caucuses on Tuesday. One rationale for voting for him could be that he has done well thus far, and another could be that he says what people want to hear. He has tapped into anger, like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has on the Democratic side, which, along with all of its related effects, is the reason for his overwhelming support.
The frustrated people in the group are Bush — yes, he is counted twice — Rubio and Cruz. Bush may be the most frustrated man in America because the nomination started off as his to lose, and he lost it when Trump showed up. Trump really hurt him when he called him "low energy" on several occasions.
Rubio, although he may be happy for being the establishment's pick yet again, is probably frustrated that he has yet to beat Trump. It does not seem likely that he will win in Nevada given the anti-establishment sentiment in the country, and that Trump has had a consistent lead in the state. His best chance to be successful will be if Kasich drops out of the race. That way he will get all, or at least should get all, of the establishment vote, which should make him stronger. That does not by any means, though, mean he can beat the businessman.
Cruz is probably the second most frustrated man in America because South Carolina should have been his, despite the Trump factor. Exit polls indicated 72 percent of voters said they were Evangelical or born-again, which is Cruz's demographic. That vote was obviously split between candidates, including Trump, which is a big blow to Cruz and his strategy. If he cannot win his key demographic in South Carolina, it is unclear if he will be able to win it anywhere else, and he had been banking on winning the religious, Southern states on Super Tuesday, March 1.
Kasich had written off South Carolina before the polls opened, and it is unclear why Carson is still in the race.
Clinton was leading Sanders 52.7 percent to 47.2 percent Sunday afternoon when 97 percent of precincts were reporting. The victory gives the former chief diplomat a jolt after coming in a distant second, which is last, in New Hampshire. The loss is not all bad for senator because he worked his way up from being down by nearly 50 points earlier in the race. The other silver lining for him and his campaign is that he won the Latino vote. In an emailed press release, his campaign says entrance polls indicated he won the Latino demographic by 8 points. That could have been because of the younger vote. He has the potential to win any demographic if he can get young people out to vote.
The former secretary of state was able to win, at least in part, because of the African American vote. She also continued her trend of winning older voters and voters with higher incomes. According to Associated Press, entrance polls indicated she won the 45 and older age bracket, and the $100,000+ income bracket.
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The question about Clinton is, like the one for Trump, now whether or not she can be stopped. South Carolina, which has its Democratic primary on Saturday, will be an indicator. If she can take South Carolina, Sanders has an extremely difficult road ahead. (If he is going to win in South Carolina, he is going to need to make sure all young people show up, and he will need to bolster his standing with African American voters.) If Sanders can win in the first Southern state, then he is still very much in play.
USC Annenberg Media went to Nevada on Friday, Feb. 19, the day before the caucuses. You can watch a video interview with a Clinton precinct captain here, and you can watch an interview with labor leader Dolores Huerta here. Both were filmed from in the campaign office. You can also watch a video interview with the president of National Nurses United from the Sanders main Las Vegas campaign office here.
Staff Reporter Alison Main co-produced the videos.